Dinner in London can sometimes be a bit of a rush, but it's worth taking the time to enjoy Margot to its fullest, as Alexandra Fraser discovered on a visit to Margot.
When one undertakes a brave journey into the centre of London, it proves a near-impossible task to dodge busy commuters and peer at menus posted outside doors, with the aim of finding somewhere decent to partake of the evening meal. Despite living in London I now find it much more peaceful to find a place ahead of time, study the menu to avoid any undue hesitation and diligently keep my eyes fixed on a phone map from Leicester Square tube right up to the warm doorway of my restaurant of choice.
In an area populated by incredible eateries specialising in pre-theatre menus (especially Italian ones), it takes something truly special to stand out in the crowd.
Luckily, something about this cosy corner off Queen Street does just that.
Conveniently placed in the midst of some one London’s finest theatres, Margot has earned its reputation (and won its awards) off the back of those popping in for a pre-show dinner. That’s a shame, because it’s easily good enough that you should spread the pleasure of a visit out across the course of an entire evening.
Three years after opening it opened its doors in Covent Garden, Margot has honed its produce-led menu down beautifully, from the cured meats to the tiramisu.
My traditional eating companion (my medically-inclined brother who shares my love for all things involving dough and sauce) and I settled into a plush booth and trusted the knowledgeable wait staff to select a wine. Their choice, a full-bodied red, paired perfectly with the whole meal and sustained us through to dessert.
Pretending that I hadn’t read the entire menu through twice that very morning, I selected the carpaccio di manzo to begin. I was greeted with a beef carpaccio with rocket, parmesean and delicious black truffle. Flavourful and the kind of texture that melts like butter in one’s mouth, I found it difficult to imagine a better beginning to a meal.
My brother’s tortelli di cervo was a close second; so delicious that we’ve included the recipe below (the restaurant has helpfully noted that venison can be replaced with any other similar cuts of a different animal).
We swapped dishes for our mains. I opted for the linguine con vongole and enjoyed their delicious clam pasta – a dish of subtle, comforting flavours, perfect executed and plentiful in portion. He moved onto the baked veal, served with a fragrant saffron risotto. I believe his completely-cleared plate spoke for itself.
For a picture-perfect dessert, opt for the crema al limone, which arrives styled with gorgeous golf leaf, browned meringue and is a deliciously cleansing end to a deliciously rich meal. I can’t remember exactly what the tiramisu looked like before it was gone — I was assured it was incredibly tasty.
One can get in the habit of eating quickly to run onto the next activity, especially in so busy a city as our capital. Place’s like Margot are a reminder that dinner is more than a necessary activity between 7pm and 9pm in the evening; when done right, it’s a social and culinary experience that will leave you smiling long after the last mouthful has been swallowed.
Starters at Margot begin at £7, with small plates from £5.50, primi piatti from £20 and secondi piatti from £19. To see the full menu and book a table, visit www.margotrestaurant.com
How to make Margot’s venison tortelli
For the braised venison:
- 2 kg venison haunch or diced, or cut in large chunks
- 1 litre red wine
- 100g carrots
- 150g onions
- 80g celery
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 juniper berries
- 500 ml brown stock (beef or chicken)
Place all the ingredients in one container and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Separate all the fluids from the rest of the ingredients. In a really hot frying pan, quickly sear the meat, then the vegetables.
Place all the ingredients in a deep baking tray, add the liquid, cover with parchment paper, tin foil and cook in a gas oven at 130 degrees for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
The meat should now be soft enough to be shredded, cool down at room temperature, drain the liquid and reduce to a thick glaze that will be added to the shredded meat.
For the filling:
- 1 kg braised venison (recipe above)
- 120g blackcurrant or blackberry jam
- 100g of infused oil (thyme, rosemary, parsley, garlic, any of those will do)
- 20g table salt
- 3g coarse black pepper
- 20g chopped parsley
Mix all the ingredients together.
For the dough:
- 200 g pasta flour
- 50 g semolina
- 120g whole egg
- 5ml extra virgin olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, work until they start to combine.
Place the dough in a working bench and knead by hand until smooth.
Wrap in cling film and store in a fridge for minimum 2 hours.
With a pasta machine, make sheets 2 to 3mm thick to make the pasta parcels.
Serve with brown butter, cooked chestnuts, grated Parmesan and fried sage leaves.
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